Recent comments

  • GF council works on new deer feeding bylaw   20 weeks 5 hours ago

    Councillor Michael Wirischagin has the right idea regarding the present bylaw and giving it time to work, as for the rest of the council it seems they are in a hurry to pass this latest bylaw, I supppose they want it pushed through before they break for Christmas.  All I see is a new bylaw being passed by Gary Smith and his followers in order to make more money  through by law enforcement (Wildsafe officer?? and then using it to pay this person to hand out fines. I don't see this bylaw being much more than a money grab, getting neighbors to report on neighbors, feuds starting and the deer are still going to be in Grand Forks & vicinity. This bylaw isn't going to solve what the deer eat, in fact letting us have our gardens and ornamental plants in our yards will entice the deer to keep coming to our yards, and munching down.

    If people plant ornamental plants that deer will eat, then perhaps there should be fines against the humans that are placing these edibles that the deer will consume...because this is actually feeding the deer and if city council is doing this to create revenue why aren't they fining people for planting these ornamentals?  These same people who  put ornamentals where deer can eat them, then turn around and complain that the local deer are destroying their landscaping and want something done...and guess what that is..culling and now fines for people who give the deer some help in the cold winter and  no fines for the people who plants what the deer will eat...isn't this the same thing?

  • CONTEST: December 2013 -- Trust in Nature tea and Hardy Mountain coffee   20 weeks 9 hours ago

    What a great way to warm winter's chill from your body - a nice hot cup of tea or coffee!

  • COMMENT: ‘Leaders’ and why we’re so beyond that--or should be. Part Two of Two: Who wants a newspaper to call their very own?   20 weeks 10 hours ago

    Thanks for this, Sean. I agree that, ideally, media is an essential element of democracy. I also agree that bloggers can't do it all. But my hope is that in between the corporate model and the wild and wooly blogosphere there's some middle ground where capitalism and journalism can meet comfortably. 

    Aside from these questions of viability, I'm also interested in questions around how journalists go about their business in this new age. There are internal and external issues that need to be addressed. These are challenging times but also exciting ones.--ed.

  • CONTEST: December 2013 -- Trust in Nature tea and Hardy Mountain coffee   20 weeks 20 hours ago

    Nice people serving a nice cup of coffee/tea... sounds delightful to me!

  • COMMENT: ‘Leaders’ and why we’re so beyond that--or should be. Part Two of Two: Who wants a newspaper to call their very own?   20 weeks 1 day ago

    Journalism is essential, and one important safeguard is to regulate the ownership. That is another victim of the Thatcher/Reagan era.

    A single corporation should not be permitted to own the news in a single market. A newspaper owner should not be permitted to also own TV and radio in the same market.

    As the public vs. private funding of a news organization (e.g., CBC vs. CTV) is concerned, the difference is more imaginary than real. A private news organization is funded through advertising which is, if not by definition then by effect, a tax on consumer goods. It may happen, but it would be rare for the cost of advertising to be covered by reducing profits rather than being added to the cost of the goods being advertised.

    Citizens being informed of and about government activity is essential to the survival of a democracy. A society where people are kept in the dark is not a democracy, you cannot be said to govern yourself if you don't know whether it is Tuesday or August.

  • COMMENT: ‘Leaders’ and why we’re so beyond that--or should be. Part Two of Two: Who wants a newspaper to call their very own?   20 weeks 1 day ago

    Thought-provoking ideas, Adrian. I would refer you and your readers to the excellent—if sobering—book 'The Death and Life of American Journalism' by journalism professors Robert McChesney and John Nichols, who explore the options thoroughly. They point out that the slide in journalism began long before the Internet, with the big media mergers and the increasing need to generate profit from the news. Invariably that meant that if celebrity gossip and other trivia had more potential to attract revenue than investigative journalism then that's what we got. Already by the late 1990s newspaper readership was plummeting as a consequence. Just like the bankers and Wall St. mavens whose policies drove the financial system into collapse but enriched a very few, the same condition was created in the media for the same kinds of reasons. 

    That said, McChesney and Nichols don't see citizen journalism as completely filling the gap that has opened up as news staff and whole newspapers go down. (They state that since 2000 the industry's capacity to generate news has dropped by more than 30%. In the US just in one year, 2009, 300 newspapers folded permanently.) For one thing, most bloggers lack the resources to do true investigative journalism, which as Chris Hedges points out, costs money. Bloggers typically have to have a day job to support their habit, which leaves them little time to pursue truly in-depth reports. Added to that is the lack of any editorial screening and the creeping bias that naturally results. I do the best I can with my blog chameleonfire1 but I'm a journalist with 23 years' experience, and even then the format of a blog tends to mean I cut myself more slack for editorializing than I would in a newspaper. 

    The other problem with the blogosphere is the 'bubble' effect created by Google search engines, which customize every browser's search results based on their past history. So once again we end up with the problem of preaching to the choir, which may be limited to our small circle of friends and family. I have no idea how to bridge this gap. And when more widely read blogs like the Huffington Post become successful, they tend to be bought up by the very media conglomerates that created the problem in the first place, often watering down the product as a consequence.

    McChesney and Nichols do have some ideas for solutions though. These hinge upon the concept of journalism as a public good the same as roads, sewer systems and public schools. As a society we subsidize these with our taxes because we know that, while absolutely necessary, they are unlikely to ever turn a profit. And why should they? We've already discussed what happens to the media when it succumbs to über-capitalism. So one option would be to promote the idea of journalism in the context of a vital service to society, one deserving of financial support in a similar way we pay road and school taxes. This would also have the benefit of keeping it truly arm's length, as long as the separation between press and state was kept intact.


  • COMMENT: ‘Leaders’ and why we’re so beyond that--or should be. Part Two of Two: Who wants a newspaper to call their very own?   20 weeks 1 day ago

    "Again, the lack of engagement today isn't the fault of 'lazy people''s the result of disenchantment with old structures, which were created by old technologies."

    I'm in full agreement with that sentence of yours, with the exception of the conclusion. The old structure is not of a technological nature, the problem is the power structure.

    The technologies you are applying is an excellent one to further engagement and participation. The problem is to what end? In what way can a citizenry so engaged and participating fully affect governance by one iota?

    In Rossland's case, it was within council's powers to delegate its responsibilities to the CAO. In what way could citizens have a) prevented this delegation, or b) reversed it after problems became apparent? they lacked the power to do anything other than grumble, bitch, and complain.

    Heck,. "the system" was such that even some members of council felt powerless to deal with the problem.

    When you are left without power, when that is left to you is a constitutional right to bitch and complain, why bother? To what end? The empowered CAO is not about to be impressed by it, and neither are those who were elected to look after the shop.

    Where I encounter a brick wall in my mind is how can technology fix the reality of disempowerment? If there is not a darn thing I can do about it, how does talking and worrying about it help?

  • COMMENT: ‘Leaders’ and why we’re so beyond that--or should be. Part Two of Two: Who wants a newspaper to call their very own?   20 weeks 1 day ago

    No argument on most of this. However, I think the 'pyramid' is now outdated as an organizational structure--architecturally it was outdated 3000 years ago, after all! It got dumped, I believe, when the Greeks invented columns...and democracy.

    In a way, that's exactly my point. Media pyramid and political pyramid. The new technology facilitates 'flat' structures...and that's the change the Telegraph needs to better reflect.

    When we started the Telegraph and Lone Sheep one of our primary mandates was to flatten the structure of WK print meda by having ownership and control totally local, as opposed to the Black Press structure where there's much more of a hierarchy in terms of both ownership and control (and the types of decisions that tend to come with those structures). We succeded at that and all five of our papers are automomous in this way. However, my sense is that we need to go further and do something creative with the owner/editor/reporter/reader hierarchy as well. This isn't to suggest any dilution of, say, council coverage, but rather to suggest new, more creative, more broad-based, and more constructive ways of doing that job in the future, using the new tools at our disposal. How to do that is the conversation I want to have.

    Again, the lack of engagement today isn't the fault of 'lazy people''s the result of disenchantment with old structures, which were created by old technologies.

    We're heading into a radically different new world and no one really knows what it will look like. Will a giant brain like Conrad Black's provide the goods on FDR twenty years from now? Or will there be some sort of high quality hive-creation doing a better job via some evolved form of social media? I can't say with any certainty, but I can feel the tides turning and hope that Lone Sheep will be able to respond and evolve in accordance with the times.

    All I know for sure is that things aren't working well right now on a number of levels and, as Einstein said, a good working definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over while expecting different results. I googled that...

  • COMMENT: ‘Leaders’ and why we’re so beyond that--or should be. Part Two of Two: Who wants a newspaper to call their very own?   20 weeks 1 day ago

    The Jason Ward story and the role played by the Telegraph in it is a perfect example. The people closest to it, namely the city's management and the council, either did not see it or if they did, they were by definition complicit in it.

    I have no idea how many hours Bennett dedicated to piecing that story together, but I have no doubt that it took a lot of work, a lot of reading, a lot of research and figuring to piece it all together.

    Technololgy was without a doubt of great help to Bennett, and without modern technology it may quite possibly have been impossible for him to turn what may have started as a hunch into a story, and do it in a way to engage a broad section of the community.

    If we are going to continue regulating stuff such as zoning and construction, we will not only need regulations to do so, but also staff to interpret, apply, and enforce the regulations. Who regulates the regulator? Organizations are structured as pyramids, from the worker at the base to the CAO at the top. Where in that pyramid to we plug in the citizenry, and how do we plug it in? Citizens elect councils to look after their interests by monitoring and guiding the CAO, applying the brakes or lighting a fuse as time and circumstances may direct. How do citizens monitor and guide their council, how can citizens apply a brake to or light a fuse under their elected council? As it stands (or is it now stood?) in Rossland, council took the easy way out by delegating whatever authority and power the law would allow them to delegate not to citizens, as the Constitution Bylaw attempted to do, but back to the CAO. Whoppee ding-dong!

    I am not minimizing the value or impact of technology. If Black's FDR biography were only available written in long hand on parchment, I would not have made the effort to read it. But, 200 pages from the end of the book, I know (or at least think that I know) that I would not have gained as much understanding of the guy from a one-hour documentary on TV, Facebook, Twitter (or a referendum, for that matter).

  • COMMENT: ‘Leaders’ and why we’re so beyond that--or should be. Part Two of Two: Who wants a newspaper to call their very own?   20 weeks 1 day ago

    Obviously, I disagree, Andre. I don't think I'm offering 'excuses' for public disengagement but rather am trying to understand and explain it. The ideas in books aren't obsolete, but the way of expressing those ideas is changing. I'm not suggesting one can understand FDR via a series of tweets, for goodness sake...but look at today's discussion as an example...a few thousand words of discussion about an important issue achieved instantly and shared with hundreds media. And you're part of it! Gotcha...

  • COMMENT: ‘Leaders’ and why we’re so beyond that--or should be. Part Two of Two: Who wants a newspaper to call their very own?   20 weeks 1 day ago

    I intended the survey monkey as an example baased on Andre's comments, not as the be all and end all.  I fully accept what you say about the limitations of government by referendum or poll. However, the hope is to structure something like the Telegraph to better facilitate both education and conversation, thereby deepening the public's knowledge base and improving engagement AND survey

    There's no doubt we have major problems in this area: on that I'm sure we all agree. The solution? That's the conversation that needs to happen. Right now, for example, we elect our councillors either on the level of the high school popularity contest or negatively, by voting against people we don't like. Few people in town vote based on a confident sense of the candidates' values and approach to governance. The political culture in town is such that most who should run for office wouldn't dream of it. And then, saddled with an overburdened and defensive council, (some) media gets critical, which makes council shut down and form a firewall around themselves, which makes them more out of touch and error-prone. The whole process needs opening up, needs to become more solution-oriented and inclusive.

    We started the Telegraph in the wake of the 'golf course controversy' six years ago when biased local journalism resulted in a lot of polarization in town. After five years of work on this project, I honestly can't say things are any better. In fact, they may be worse. Of course, some would say we're biased ourselves--and that's probably inevitable to some extent. So part of the mandate is to broaden the base of local media to make it better reflective of the real nature of the community, thereby increasing engagement, education, etc, etc.

  • COMMENT: ‘Leaders’ and why we’re so beyond that--or should be. Part Two of Two: Who wants a newspaper to call their very own?   20 weeks 1 day ago

    Technology is an easy excuse.

    I'm a couple hundred pages from the end of Conrad Black's biography on FDR. (As much of a turkey Black can be, or is, he is an excellent biographer). Johann Gutenberg's technology is an old one, but there is no way that Twitter, Facebook, or any modern communication technology could impart the knowledge and understanding of FDR I gained with the help of Gutenberg's technology. The problem with quick and easy is just that. Things tend to be simplified to the point where essential aspects of the substance are lost.

    The change in the nature of governance over the past century-and-a-half is due more to the fact that governance affects a far greater chunk of what life is that what it did in the 19th century.

    The role of government in matters of health, education, transportation, trade, justice, etc. etc. etc. is immense compared to what it was.

    I see the complexity and variety of decisions that need to be made, and the implementation and administration of all these decisions, to be the greater problem.

    When the system is such that, once elected, citizens are without effective power (short of burning down city hall), what pressing incentive is there for the elected not just to listen to what citizens have to say, but to seek to understand what they mean by what they say.

    For members of city council, to take a close-to-home example, it is so easy to state, with a wringle of concern on your forehead, that "the people" don't understand the full complexity of the problem before proceeding in a way they, the elected as individuals or a group do (having been convinced by consultants or staff how to proceed because those consultants and staff understand the complexities far better than members of council do),

    When it is within the powers of citizens to force an issue on the ballot, the elected learn, in due course (it takes a couple or three generations), HOW to listen to what people have to say, to take a measure of the prevailing wind, and to shape a decision which must be made in a way so as to be acceptable to a broader sector of the community.

    Learning to listen, opening the mind to compromise, these are skills, not ltechnologies. Absent these skills, it does not matter what technology you apply to governance, you will drift from democracy towards oligarchy of some kind.

  • COMMENT: ‘Leaders’ and why we’re so beyond that--or should be. Part Two of Two: Who wants a newspaper to call their very own?   20 weeks 1 day ago

    In the context of democratic governance, the term accountable needs to be refined, or perhaps given a somewhat different emphasis.
    If we take accountability to mean "You will not be re-elected" the impact is likely to be negligible as an incumbent will concentrate his efforts in re-election propaganda.

    However, if we take accountable to mean "Do, or else we will", accountability will, in time, sharpen the elected politicians hearing and understanding. They learn to read the wind. It takes time, granted, a change in political culture does not come easily or quickly. However, with time, those who seek elected office do understand that if they have goals or objectives they want to achieve, they have to shape and present their objectives in such a way as to be acceptable to the bulk of the population. If not, citizens have the power to block it.

    The real benefit in empowering citizens to act, to impose a decision on the elected elite, is that it fine-tunes the hearing of that elite.

  • COMMENT: ‘Leaders’ and why we’re so beyond that--or should be. Part Two of Two: Who wants a newspaper to call their very own?   20 weeks 1 day ago

    I think you see to the heart of the dilemma I face as a 'transmitter' of news and views, Aaron. If I carp up a solution I'm perpetuating the problem! All I can offer at this point is my diagnosis of that problem, which I'll restate here.

    My experience over the last five years is that when I edit the Telegraph and assign a reporter to cover five stories in a week I'm determining the agenda. The reporter will be interested and informed about some topics but not others. He or she will necessarily bring some form of bias to the process. The readership will look at our offerings and tend to read or not read depending on their interests. A few will post a comment. And that's the end of the process. It's one way and narrow, if that's the right word.

    The same is true of governance. A few noble fools run for council, a few more vote. The elected body is quickly overwhelmed and delegate duties to paid managers. Council make decisions as best they can but are too overwhelmed to listen to the public, viewing feedback as attacks more often than not. What goes on in chambers is written about in a story or two and that's generally it. Occasionally, as with Andrew Bennett's fine coverage of the Jason Ward Affair, the hive gets stirred up but even then it soon settles back down and not much changes. Again, a constricted form of discourse.

    My argument is that technological limitations used to make these structures necessary (the train to Ottawa, so to speak, the expense of running a printing press) but that today new options are available that reflect the nature of the culture at the moment. If we don't adopt them we (government and media) become irrelevant and engagement drops off even further.

    I do have a few ideas about possible solutions, it's true, but the nature of the problem demands that they not come particularly from me. If greater engagement is the goal, then the solutions should come about through an engaged process, not an autocratic one run by me as the guy who somehow ended up with the keys to a news outlet...

    I'm moving in the direction of helping to facilitate such a process--not least in part through conversations like these. Thanks to you and Andre for joining in--would love to hear from anyone else out there who has a thought to share!

    More to follow in the next week or so...

  • COMMENT: ‘Leaders’ and why we’re so beyond that--or should be. Part Two of Two: Who wants a newspaper to call their very own?   20 weeks 1 day ago

    André is right that the technology is not the central problem; it's the people that the technology is supposed to serve.  That's true for both government and the media.  It would be great if people were more involved in their own governance, in holding governments accountable.  We can probably all agree on that.  But where do we go from there? 

    Adrian is thinking of how to reboot the transmission model for news, but I'm not sure what he has in mind.  Stop being a transmitter of news and start doing something else?  Revise the model for news transmission?  Or leave the newspaper as it is and start some sort of other parallel process?  I like the objectives, but I'm having trouble imagining what kinds of options are out there.  Town hall meetings? Kitchen table meetings? 

    I suspect Adrian has some ideas, however rough.  I also suspect he doesn't want to unilaterally force the discussion in a particular direction.  But I'd still like to hear what's on his mind.

  • COMMENT: ‘Leaders’ and why we’re so beyond that--or should be. Part Two of Two: Who wants a newspaper to call their very own?   20 weeks 1 day ago

    Yes, we could easily have a survey on every substantive issue, and could enshrine a referendum option for all the controversial ones.  But that's a really limited concept of democracy.

    Democracy at its core demands that people be educated about the issues.  If you take a survey about something that I'm misinformed or ignorant about, I'm going to deliver you a crap vote. The only good thing about electing representatives is that sometimes (rarely) they actually think beyond the prevailing mood to advocate for what's good for the long term, putting their principles above their popularity.  You lose that if you go to government by survey.

    The challenge of democracy is not just holding governments accountable - it's also ensuring that the ones doing the holding are informed, engaged.

  • COMMENT: ‘Leaders’ and why we’re so beyond that--or should be. Part Two of Two: Who wants a newspaper to call their very own?   20 weeks 1 day ago

    I guess I disagree! Whenever I hear the refrain that 'the people aren't pulling their weight' I get suspicious. People are always the same, but technology changes and determines the way cultures work. So the people aren't lazier or dumber today than in the's just that the tools they're given don't make sense any longer. And sending some person off to Ottawa for four years is just too horse-and-buggy for the 21st century mind. Transmission culture (media or governance) is increasingly seen as BS...alienating and ineffective.

    To claim that delegative democracy is viable is like someone in the time of Gutenburg claiming that hand-copying manuscripts and filing them in monestaries was still a viable way of storing and sharing knowledge.

    We reject contemporary democracy (as practised) because contemporary democracy rejects us. The Constitution Bylaw is a perfect example, in fact, of one of the ways in which democracy must evolve to suit the times. We should have a survey monkey for every substantive issue that comes before council and offer them the results before they make their decision. So, I think we agree!

    Finally, if that's first draft writing, Andre, I'm impressed! So I won't 'blame technology'--I'll praise you!

  • CONTEST: December 2013 -- Trust in Nature tea and Hardy Mountain coffee   20 weeks 1 day ago

    What more can I say... best coffee and a wonderful selection of tea!

  • COMMENT: ‘Leaders’ and why we’re so beyond that--or should be. Part Two of Two: Who wants a newspaper to call their very own?   20 weeks 1 day ago

    I am no longer a resident of Rossland, but as you asked for “Any ideas out there?” I thought, why not. It is most difficult for me to remain silent in any debate on topics within the broad categories of governance, society, democracy, and politics.

    You opened part two with a reference to the people who used to take the train to Ottawa to represent their constituents. This is an appropriate picture from which to start an analysis of the problem, at least from the way I see the problem.

    The idea back then in 1867 was for the people of Canada to govern themselves rather than being governed from far away London. The steam powered train was the technology of the day used to make it happen. The technology had about as much relevance to the idea of home rule as mukluks have to the idea of transportation. The philosophy underpinning the idea of sending representatives to Ottawa was that those sent out would do just that – represent the people left behind. Part and parcel of the concept of representation is accountability. Our legal system provides an excellent example to help us understand how accountability is linked to representation.

    If I am hauled into court and am represented by a lawyer, the job of the lawyer is to represent me and my interests, and she darn well better discuss with me how she intends to proceed and why. The lawyer may be of the opinion that my interests would be best served by pleading guilty, that the consequences would not likely be as severe as they would should I be found guilty after having pleaded not guilty. But if I disagree and insist on pleading not guilty anyway, the lawyer had better do her utmost to defend me and my interests to the court. She is and remains accountable to me all the way my being seated in the electric chair.

    Democracy differs from all other governance forms and philosophies in one essential way: bottom up. In all other forms of government, autocracy, oligarchy, anything from a Hitler-style regime to the most benign colonial rule, governance proceed in a top down direction. Bottom-up governance means top down accountability. Rousseau recognized a long time ago that it is impossible for all the people to meet all the time to make all the decisions necessary to make society function, to avoid total anarchy. That means that delegation of some kind, in some form, and to some degree is essential. The key to the quality of a democracy, however, is not how or to what degree or by what way the power to make decisions is delegated, nor to the technology applied to make it work. The key is accountability.

    The idea behind Rossland’s Constitution Bylaw was to provide citizens with the means to establish, maintain, and adjust the fences within which their elected council may roam freely. When the idea was put to the people in a referendum, it was adopted with overwhelming majority. When the bylaw was scrapped, it was not because citizens were tired of holding their elected council accountable; it was because their elected council was tired of having their power to make deals with developers limited. The Community Charter gave the elected council certain powers, and they were not about to be held accountable for the way they used those powers by some stupid bylaw dreamt up by a hired idealist.

    The Constitution Bylaw was deemed to be illegal by the stipulation that a referendum decision would be binding on council. It could have been retained, and be fully legal, simply by removing that section. That section could have been amended to state something like “council shall consider the referendum result prior to making a final decision.” That would have been perfectly legal. The problem with that approach is that it would have retained, perhaps even reinforced, the bylaw’s effect of holding council accountable. Just imagine a council facing final adoption of a bylaw where a solid majority of citizens had taken the time and made the effort to express their opposition. Or a council refusing to initiate a bylaw requested by a petition signed by the required percentage of registered voters. No, the council that dumped the Constitution Bylaw was not worried about its legality; it wanted to remove a process designed to strengthen accountability.

    The problem is not technology; the problem lies with us, the citizens of this country – province - community. We refer to the people we elect as being our representatives, but once elected we accept their obedience to their party leader, why? Look at the US, for example. Yes, the US system differs from our British parliamentary system, but in the US is more rare than common that Congress or Senate votes stick strictly to party lines. The US system has its problems too, and I mean to use that example only to point out one significant difference.

    To conclude, I do not see technology as a problem of any significance in the way we are governed at any level in Canada. I see the problem in citizens accepting, with barely a murmur of discontent, the manner in which those we elect to, in theory, represent us proceed on being elected weaken and preferably eliminate all means by which they could be held accountable for their actions. Instead they rely on short-term flashy promises of goodies down the road to enhance their chances of being re-elected.

    (This was written off the cuff, without editing. If anything I wrote appears garbled, blame it on technology).

  • CONTEST: November 2013 -- Barefoot Books through Lizanne Eastwood   20 weeks 3 days ago

    Congratulations Jean Lloyd! You won this months contest :) I will get in touch with you by email for more details :) 

  • CONTEST: November 2013 -- Barefoot Books through Lizanne Eastwood   20 weeks 4 days ago

    Barefoot books are the best !

  • MAAP is officially on the map   21 weeks 50 min ago

    My apologies Sam. Yes it's at 7212 Riverside Drive -- behind Clyde's Pub and the firehall if you are familiar with Grand Forks. 

  • MAAP is officially on the map   21 weeks 6 hours ago

    Is this facility in Grand Forks? 

  • COMMENT: Retirement Security   21 weeks 6 hours ago

    There is not enough money for workers because the elected politicians have more than their share giving themselves huge raises without the need to bargain but balk at workers getting bargaining rights. Why is it the the people they represent have to take a back seat to those they have elected? Also those that have worked for 30+ years are not as fortunate because we can't increase our pensions at will. Also the pensions they recieve they only have to sit on their backsides for 6 years.

  • Ferraro Foods speaks to Facebook furor over Sensible BC video   21 weeks 6 hours ago

    It was disgusting to see the extent that the store owner went to in interfering with a legal process. He had no business interfering like that, kind of makes him a biggot as well as a law breaker.